Tech helps hospital contain MERS virus

An Indiana hospital relied on best practices and technology to avoid spreading the deadly MERS virus while treating the first reported case in the United States.

When a man who had traveled to Saudi Arabia arrived at the 427-bed Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana with symptoms of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)--severe fever, cough and shortness of breath--three technologies helped the hospital identify everyone who came in contact with him, reports InformationWeek.

  • Badges that have real-time location technology (RTLS) identified 50 staff, patients and visitors who had contact with the MERS patient.
  • Staff logged in every patient interaction, including housekeeping, into the hospital's EHR system.
  • The hospital also checked its video surveillance system to make sure it didn't overlook anyone.

"Our hospital has very stringent standard protocols for any patient with infectious diseases. We do frequent education and frequent checks. That's the best way to prevent infections from spreading," Alan Kumar, M.D., the hospital's chief medical information officer, said of the hospital's department dedicated to infectious diseases.

The hospital expects it will soon discharge the MERS patient and the employees isolated at home for the past 14 days will finish their quarantine on Sunday, reports Southtown Star. The hospital said the employees are not contagious to their families and can return to work once they test negative again.

More than 400 people have been diagnosed with the illness and the death toll in Saudi Arabia stands at 126.

The disease spreads easily in hospitals, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hospitals follow standard contact and airborne precautions when treating patients. It urges hospitals to prepare for a possible outbreak by adapting tools and checklists initially developed for the influenza pandemic and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, more commonly known as SARS. 

To learn more:
- read the InformationWeek article
- here's the Southtown Star story

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